Ever since Olsen Racela became the head coach of the FEU Tamaraws two years ago, he established himself as a mild-mannered and soft-spoken tactician.
It was rare for Racela, who is also an assistant for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, to be seen shouting at players or complaining at the officials from the sidelines.
But the nine-time PBA champion built a basketball career with fire and passion. He was a relentless point guard, a player who was fearless and never ran out of confidence. Every time he hit a daredevil drive or a big shot, he would stretch out his arms and scream in jubilation. Fittingly, he adopted the moniker "Rah-Rah Racela." It was a nickname but it also served as a battle cry for the fiery guard.
Racela has been retired for seven years, but the old "Rah-Rah" fire was back the last couple of FEU games. The Tamaraws have won three straight, including victories over league-pacers Adamson Falcons and defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles. In the two huge wins, Racela celebrated as though he was still a player wearing his famous no.17 jersey. He would passionately shout as soon the buzzer sounded and lifted his arms in the air as though he hit a game-winner for the San Miguel Beermen.
"You need it," Racela said in Filipino about his emotions. "It actually started in the UE game, you just didn't see it."
FEU was humbled with a 25-point blowout versus the Red Warriors, arguably the biggest upset so far this season. Since that humiliating loss, the Tamaraws have completely turned it around.
"We need that for the players, to motivate the players," he went on. "That's who I am. Even as a player, that's who I was."
The 47-year-old Racela's passion and hunger might have rubbed off on his team because they are now in second place in the standings with a 5-2 record. However, the PBA legend doesn't see it that way. All he wants is that his players be driven and inspired.
"What you see now is my personality. They all have different personalities," Racela pointed out. "That's my personality. I hope that it's contagious but it's up to the personality of the players. I just hope they get motivated."
Racela is usually a reserved and calm coach, but when he needs to, he can still call upon his old "Rah-Rah Racela" self to uplift his squad. With a three-game winning streak, it seems to be working for the Tamaraws.